You probably haven’t heard of Tom Gardocki, but you might know “The Dirt Ninja.” This 32 year old entrepreneur is more than just some social media star. Indoctrinated into the trades via his family's business at just age 4, Tom is using his platform, education, and 28 years of experience to dig into this industry's full potential.
Eric Girouard 0:00
Hey guys, this is Eric and you're listening to bucket talk powered by Brunt better known as the dirt ninja Tom Gandaki has loved heavy machinery since he was a toddler with already 28 years of experience under his belt, here how he leveraged his passion to not only become a YouTube sensation, but built a career that he looks forward to working every single day. This is bucket top weekly podcast where people who work in the trades and construction that aren't just trying to survive, but have the ambition and desire to thrive. The opportunity to trades and construction is absolutely ridiculous right now. So if you're hungry, it's time to eat. We discuss what it takes to rise from the bottom to the top with people who are well on their way and roll up their sleeves every single day. As I mentioned, I'm here with Tom guard docky, aka the dirt ninja. So Tom, we got a lot to talk about today. One not only your you own, or operate a partner in your own business, but you have the unusual factor of you're also, you know, whether you call it an influence or a personality or a brand and the social media world. And those two things kind of come together. But I'd say back us up to the early days, you know where, you know, tell us about your background, you know, where whatever you're comfortable with, where you grew up, and how you kind of got to where you are today and in start their
Tom Gardocki 1:21
hair. Thanks for having me on. So I started my career with my parents landscaping and hardscaping business. So they've had a landscaping business here in Londonderry, New Hampshire for about 45 years running now. So I grew up in the family. Yeah, family business been going a long, long time. I actually started on heavy equipment. When I was about four, my dad used to come home at the dead at the end of the day, and, you know, unload trucks from whatever they did for the day and load them for the next day. So I'd go out and hop in the machines or sit on his lap and run the equipment and load the trucks unload the trucks. So and kind of progressed from there. I actually started working on job sites and running equipment on job sites when I was 10. Yeah, it was a it was a ton of fun. I mean, not many 10 year olds get that opportunity. So I had a ton of fun with it. I scared a ton of customers, because my dad would literally like we'd go and do a new front lawn. And he'd get all the material delivered. Then he dropped off the machine and he just dropped me off and leave me Wow. And so the homeowner is looking at seeing this little 10 year old running the machine around in their yard.
Eric Girouard 2:35
I mean, obviously times have changed and you're still pretty young, but even times of change where that stuff probably pretty illegal at this point. But But even you know, 10 1520 years ago, it probably was still a little bit you can get away with it, especially up in this nice Free State like New Hampshire.
Tom Gardocki 2:50
That's exactly right. And actually when you work for for your own business, for your family company, you can actually work when you're a little bit younger. So Oh,
Eric Girouard 2:58
Tom Gardocki 2:59
It was great. You know, it's kind of funny, when I first started I we actually used to have to put like a 50 pound bag of seed behind me in the seat so I could reach the pedals in the skidsteer. It was a lot of fun. But they
Eric Girouard 3:10
had the Bennett you had the benefit of the family business, which allowed you to get the coveted the also coveted machine time, which is really the hard part of breaking into that into your business that you'll talk about, I'm sure. Exactly, exactly. Yeah.
Tom Gardocki 3:24
So yeah, it got me into that. And I kind of you know, grew up every summer work for my parents. What I used to do was I used to work for one of my parents foreman, who was not the he was an awesome foreman newest stuff, but he was not the greatest operator. So I would always go and run the machines on his job sites for the whole summer work with him learned a lot from him. He's an awesome guy, got all my musical my rock musical tastes from him. So I progress through that, you know, through high school, and then I decided I went to the University of New Hampshire, and I got two associate's degrees. So I got a Associate's Degree in construction management and associate's degree in business management. I kind of knew by that point, I really, my real passion is running the equipment. I love doing it. And I grew up in the family business. So I knew the hardscaping was very hard work. It's you know, a lot of labor, very labor intensive. My father's had a lot of knee surgeries and elbow surgeries and hernias and all that type of stuff that takes its toll on your body. So I kind of always really wanted to get into more excavation work,
Eric Girouard 4:42
looking at the machines do the work instead of your body basically.
Tom Gardocki 4:46
Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, I kind of just wanted kind of from doing the work of my parents, I kind of realized I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. My parents, I was very lucky. They were super, super have me, and they did not mind that I didn't really have any interest in taking over the family business someday. So went to school for three years University in New Hampshire and graduated. And I worked for my parents full time as their head foreman, up until 2015. So I graduated in 2009. And kind of, you know, kept going with the family business. And I always do like side projects with their equipment. You know, on a Friday or a Saturday, my parents work a four day workweek, which is really nice. So I always had that Friday and Saturday to kind of like, do my own thing. So it's just like little jobs for homeowners, or, like a little builder would want me to put in some sauna tubes or something like that. So kind of just kind of that experience with that I actually started after I graduated with two partners, a real estate investment company. So I got into renting. Have some rental units with two workers. Yes. And then
Eric Girouard 6:04
question on that where you got and you guys were buying, rehabbing them and renting them or just doing the leasing and taking Commission on that?
Tom Gardocki 6:13
No, so we were buying the buildings, you know, rehabbing whatever needed to be rehabbed, and then holding on to them and renting them. And we actually had five buildings at one point, and we sold four of them last year, it was just a good time to sell and gain some money out of them. Our goal was always to get like one building with 20 units, you know, one, to maintain one lawn to mow one driveway to plow in the winter. So now we're kind of looking for that larger building right now. So it's kind
Eric Girouard 6:46
of like just like my family. Yes, exactly, exactly. I'll collect them all up and use them to turn it into a bigger hotel, basically.
Tom Gardocki 6:54
Exactly. Sweet. So that led into so one of the partners in that business. His name's Greg, he is also my partner in the excavation business. So I had tried. So partnerships are very difficult. You have to really get along with the person, and you've got to work great together, or it doesn't work. And I started a an online business in college, that was similar to like Craigslist, I guess, for college kids. And it didn't go anywhere. And I had like, partners in it. And the partners were good, but it was too many people and too many parts. And the thing just, it just never worked.
Eric Girouard 7:38
So it sounds like you learned the hard ship of partnerships gone wrong, which are they rarely ever work. If they're bet based with friends and things of that nature, they're even harder depending on how those work out. Hopefully, your partners turned into friends and your friends don't turn into partners. And then those things usually work. And so when you enter into this, you kind of had the bumps and bruises from the first time of you know, quote, unquote, lessons learned basically.
Tom Gardocki 8:02
Exactly, yeah, kind of, it's like everything you get to learn from your mistakes. So yeah. So this time around, you know, we had owned property together, you know, dealing with tenants, and dealing with phone calls at 2am. And who's gonna go deal with the issue, you know, you really get to know the person inside and out. And I knew that Craig was somebody that I could count on. And I'm sure he obviously felt the same way. So that kind of blossomed into one of the builders that I had kind of done work for. On the side, when I still worked for my parents asked me if I wanted to buy his john deere excavator. He didn't want it anymore. And that really got me thinking of, you know, he was willing to sell finance it, you know, I didn't have to put any money down. It was just a great opportunity to kind of try and get into the excavation realm. But I knew I couldn't do it myself. Because as much as I know how to move dirt and run equipment, I had done landscaping and hardscaping my whole life. So you know, I learned in college about excavation, but I never really did real excavation work, right. So I talked to my partner. Now, Craig, and we had talked about it before about maybe starting it, you know, we decided to go ahead and buy the machine and take the plunge. So he had worked for right out of college, he had worked for a couple different large excavation companies. So he had tons and tons of experience doing all different types of site work stuff. So he is he is definitely way more knowledgeable than I am on the terms of you know, doing the site work and the proper order to do things. I'm more of like a go get it done type of person. Yep, yeah, he's more of like, let's think it through and actually Do it in the proper order. So we work very well together
Eric Girouard 10:03
in that. So when you kick that off, how old were you at that point?
Tom Gardocki 10:06
Well, I'm 32 now. And so what is that? I was like 28. Wow, something like that. 2728 decided, so
Eric Girouard 10:17
you already had you already had a real estate business under your belt, and you guys are going on to another business, basically, that to pile on, to what you already working on? Yeah, we figured we didn't have enough going on, you know, exactly 24 hours a day. I mean, you gotta you gotta burn as many as you can. So
Tom Gardocki 10:35
That's right. That's right. So we decided to start it. And we started it only working Fridays and Saturdays. So we figured it was a great way to try and figure it out. You know, we had never run a business like this. So you know, having that flexibility with my parents where they didn't work. On Fridays, I was able to do work on Fridays. And then Craig was able to help out on Saturdays, because who he worked for he worked five days a week, the first I think it was about the first year to a year and a half, we actually didn't even pay ourselves, because we kind of knew, working two days a week and trying to pay yourself, there's really not going to be much money left over to when we do want to go full time to kind of invest in, you know, I mean, we didn't even have a pickup truck. You know, we didn't have we had an excavator and that was it. So we knew we needed to build up some capital to invest into the business. And when one of us decided to go full time, you know, buy that person, a truck, and all the necessary tools and all those type of things that you need when you go full time. So about a year, year and a half passed, and everything was going great. And Craig decided that while we decided together, but Craig decided to go and start doing it full time. So Craig started full time, and I would still help him on Fridays and Saturdays, and we worked a lot of Sundays to try to get stuff done. So he, you know, go in and do the bulk of the work. And then I'd come in and, you know, help them out by running the machines. And that was a lot of planning, you know, a lot of things that took two people, we kind of had to wait till the end of the week to do so it was a it was a challenge. We kind of made that work. And we kind of went with that right up until last year. We hired our first employee in August, and it has been fantastic. So I actually still work for my parents two to three days a week. They've been great with letting me you know, I always asked my father every weekend, hey, you know, what days do you need me? What days don't? Don't you need me because I basically committed to him Monday through Wednesday. But he does be amazed for a day he usually lets me go and you know, do my own thing, which is great. They my parents business, they used to have like 15 employees, now they're down to six, they really rely on me a lot. They're very close to retirement, probably one to two years away. And I just feel like I can't really run out on them. Even though we have enough work that I could go full time, I just feel really obligated to them to help them out and make sure you know in the last couple of years, it still goes well and and help them out the best that I can because they've
Eric Girouard 13:26
helped us out a lot to one of the more entrepreneurial juggling acts because you're dealing with the family business which you want to keep going for based on what they've done for you. You got your own business which you want to put more time into. But you know you're at the same time you are the people that really put you put you to where you are. And and you've got some other stuff going on right real estate stuff going on background so it sounds like the biggest thing for you is like time management in what you're spending your time on which business which company type what you're in what you're focusing on?
Tom Gardocki 13:56
Yeah, it gets to be honest with you, it gets very, very difficult. Luckily, we're at a point with the rental units that not much time needs to be afforded to that we have really good tenants now. And if if anybody has rental apartments, they know that good tenants make all the difference. Because if you have crappy tenants, and you get phone calls about you know little stupid things every night, I can just make your life miserable. But we have really good tenants now so my energy can be really focused on the excavation business. My parents are good I don't have to do you know I'm not doing any estimates or quotes or I go in and work and then I come home at the end of the day for them so there's really no like after school activities for them. That I know is good.
Eric Girouard 14:43
Tom Gardocki 14:44
it's really all for the excavation business you know and that's really what I want to invest my time and anyways, that's that's what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Eric Girouard 14:52
So Alright, so it sounds like you got a few years left the family business as your parents start to want you know, figure out what the will retirement Basically looks like and then you're going to, as that transitions, you guys figure out what to do with that business, sell it or whatever it may be or wind it down. But then you're gonna you're going to put full gas on the pedal on the excavation business as soon as it makes sense for you and your family, basically.
Tom Gardocki 15:15
Yeah, exactly. And I think even my father is somebody who can never retire. So you know, he'll probably even come and drive a truck for us or something. So I'm, I'm sure, he'll come over. I mean, my mom, she does all the books for my parents business. She helps me out. I do all the books for the excavation business. So she helps me out when I have questions. She helps me out with payroll and all those type of things. So so maybe I can get her to come over and work a couple of days a week or man, take that off my plate. That'd be great.
Eric Girouard 15:48
Awesome, awesome. So tell us about name of the company. I mean, what you know when what the plan is, it's up to you got your first employee, the type of work, you're, you know, obviously, there's some commercials and residential, that type of work, what you like to do what you want to do, how you want to go tell us about like the current status of the excavation business. Okay,
Tom Gardocki 16:06
so we are it's new era excavation. We're based out of Londonderry, New Hampshire. We specialize right now in high end custom home excavation, new homes. So we work for a bunch of custom home builders, you know, guys who build one, maybe two homes in a year. Yeah, big, you know, big money clients, big houses, you know, big excavation work, that type of stuff. We're not really big into, you know, like, the cookie cutter type thing. I don't know, I think we get I would get bored with it. To be honest with you. I really like a challenge. I like something different. I like the tight lots that have no room to do anything. I love showing up at the job and going How the heck are we going to do this job? That's what I see. You know, that's a challenge. And I think you have all the tools, we have the equipment and we have the people to get those jobs done. So I think we would love to have probably six to eight total employees will keep it small. We want really want to get into small commercial site work as well, which we've been trying we've been bidding those jobs, it's it's hard to get into, we actually just acquired a new excavator about three months ago, a big one a Komatsu, PC 360, that will really help us get into those larger jobs. Because before, we always have to include a rental of a machine. And when you're competing against other big companies that already own their equipment, it's really hard to compete with them. So we did not have very good success with our bidding, you know, small roads, small commercial site works, we bid on them. really haven't gotten many of them. We've gotten a few but not many. So I hope, you know as we continue to grow, and you know, gain, people gain experience, gain equipment, we can be more competitive in that realm. But, you know, we're doing really well with the custom site work for homes. We also do septic system replacements, we do we still work for homeowners. So you know, somebody just wants a one day you know, they got a bunch of trees cut down, we'll come in, pull the stumps regrade it throw out new loam. And so they can have a new lawn. So we kind of specialize in all that type of work.
Eric Girouard 18:23
Yep, so that stuff keeps the lights on keeps things moving when you have. But then the big jobs are what gets you you really excited about getting into something unique and challenging and tough.
Tom Gardocki 18:34
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, we've done a lot of really tough house slots, and really excelled with them, because the builders keep using us. So that's always a telltale sign of if we did a good job, you know, they they call us back for the next one. And, and we have a couple of builders that pretty much just use us exclusively, which is awesome. So they kind of, you know, it's a everything about business is a relationship. So you have a relationship with your builder, you know, you gotta you got to work through things. You know, it's site work, things always go wrong, you're dealing with the weather, you have breakdowns, the plans are wrong, you know, but as long as you are reasonable with these builders, you know, they want it done. Right. And we want to do it right. And I think that's why it works so well.
Eric Girouard 19:20
So obviously what I what I think of New Hampshire, and I've got some rental properties up in New Hampshire, up through Franconia notch, but I think of a lot of land, you know, sparse acres versus You know, I'm down in Massachusetts, where so are you doing stuff like ocean front and stuff that's up? You know, it sounds like you obviously do really high end clientele, which is way above what I'm dealing with, but so tight lots in New Hampshire or are you down here in the New Hampshire area where, you know, tell me about the type of customer clientele you know, because it sounds like you got to deal with some tricky stuff.
Tom Gardocki 19:51
Yeah. So we were kind of all over Southern New Hampshire. And if you're familiar with New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire is just booming, right? Right now, they are expanding, we have if you're not from New Hampshire, you'll laugh at this. But there is one interstate in New Hampshire and it runs north south. And it had been two lanes interstate 93. It had been two lanes forever. And they are right now almost done, I'd say they got about a year or two left on expanding it from two lanes to four lanes. So what that's doing is the cost of living is so much less here in New Hampshire, than Massachusetts. So we have a lot of those people in Massachusetts or work in Massachusetts, but they want to live in New Hampshire. So the southern part of the state is just expanding. There are, like you said, when you think of New Hampshire, it's wide open, and trees and everything like that southern part of the state, there are no good house, lots left, they're either slow, they're all ledge, or they're in a swamp. So we're working everywhere from the sea coast, right? We're on a beach house, right now to Lake House, to a house that is 7500 square feet. And we just spent a month and a half hammering out the foundation, because it was 100. Wow. So we kind of, you know, it's we do a lot, we have a lot of different projects going on at once, all at various stages. Because, you know, with home construction, we're typically the first person in, right, do the site work, get the foundation ready, concrete guy comes in, we backfill. And then typically we leave because the framers need to get in and all the other trades need to get into the site. And then we get called back at some point when the septic system needs to go in. And then when the loan needs to be screened, and then typically, we're either the last person there or second to last, besides a landscaper. So we're kind of span the whole project. So yeah, you're the book guy see the
Eric Girouard 21:55
beginning? And you see the end, basically?
Tom Gardocki 21:56
Exactly, exactly. So we try and space out our new house lots. So we're not, you know, trying to dig two foundations at the same time. So we try and offset them. So we can be constantly moving around. And that's probably the biggest challenge with our business right now is logistics, and schedule. because things change in construction in general, literally every day, things don't go right you have a breakdown. Now your day behind, you know, we, I always laugh, we try and make a plan two weeks in advance. And beyond that, I can't really plan we can have a general plan Oh, we're gonna start that job next month. But like an actual what we're doing every day, pretty much goes two weeks at a time and it gets adjusted every single day. At the end of the day. It sounds
Eric Girouard 22:46
like your partner Craig is that's that's actually his expertise and wheelhouse and it allows I'm not sure it works this way. But he couldn't tell me if I'm wrong. But he's he's looking at the calendar and timing and he thinks of you as like is most you know, is this Tom Brady or his star athlete? Or how are we getting Tom's time the most, you know, most efficiently here and moving around jobs and calendars and all that stuff?
Tom Gardocki 23:10
Well, I don't know about that. But we got we have a very, we hired a very talented operator Pat, last year, so he's been able to fill in a lot for me, which has been absolutely fantastic and taken a lot of the pressure off of having to do a lot of the operation of the equipment work. But I would say that the scheduling is more of a Joint Task between us because I'm usually dealing with the customers and phone calls with the builders and everything like that and not saying that Craig doesn't do that but I usually typically handle the bulk of that, you know, it's more of Craig communicating with me and us making a plan together. So that's it's really a joint thing that we do together Greg is Craig is the guy on the ground, doing the site layout and reading the plans and making sure we're doing it properly and he is a huge stickler for quality and it's been fantastic for the business you know, I think our customers really see the quality and I think that's an awesome thing that he brings to the table is you know it has to be done right there is no exceptions and I
Eric Girouard 24:20
so it sounds like you guys are in tandem on instead of alright you go do this Tom and Craig's gonna go do this You guys are in sync on almost everything. He you know, while you're doing your work, or your new hires I should do in his work, which he sounds like he's great. Craig's also there kind of directing traffic and making sure everything's going to plan so you guys are really, it's not a divide and conquer yet or maybe ever. It's a we're making sure together we're doing exactly what we told the client we're gonna do and we're gonna execute on
Tom Gardocki 24:49
exactly, yeah, we have to work together. You know, it's just too many things going on to really, you know, have to separate you know, philosophy To fees or anything like that we have we have to work together, we have to be in constant communication. Greg is the one who does all the scheduling of deliveries, and, you know, scheduling trucks and moving of machines and all that type of stuff. So, you know, he has to communicate with me about how the schedule is going because I have to communicate with the builder, you know, so it's just, you have to work together. And, and that's why I think we've had success is because we work so well together.
Eric Girouard 25:30
God got it. Okay. So awesome. All right. So I think we've got a good sense of new area, new era where it is today. And also, you know, if you're down the road, where it's, you know, the plans are to, you know, basically take over the world, which I think you guys are gonna do, you have something very unique about you, right? That you're, we were talking to you as Tom, but you're also known in the world is the dirt Ninja, right? People don't even people don't even know if on one side of the world, they don't even know who Tom is actually just know, the dirt Ninja, tell us about out how the dirt ninja came to be and how that's kind of impacted yourself and your business and all that stuff.
Tom Gardocki 26:09
So I got started on YouTube in 2010. And that's the first social media I kind of started with, I was always a big fan of watching other people on YouTube running equipment. It's a funny thing. If you're if you're an equipment operator, for some reason, you'll run equipment all day for 810 hours, and then you'll come home and you're watching YouTube of other guys running equipment. It's a really weird thing. So I always used to come home and watch other people run equipment. And I was like, Hey, I think I could do that. So I think I got a camera digital camera for my parents for a birthday or something and I set it up. It's funny, if you go back and look at my first video, it is awful. It's like behind the pile of dirt. He didn't even see what I'm doing. I had no clue what I was doing. But it kind of expanded from there. And I was putting up a lot of videos. You know, YouTube is extremely hard to grow. It's to me, it's by far the most the hardest social media channel. It's been around the longest, it's saturated with content. It also takes the most amount of effort to create the content, right? If you got Facebook or Instagram, you can just snap a picture and throw it up. It takes you two minutes, right. But if you want to be good on YouTube, you really need to film the footage, and then you need to edit it. And then you got to put it up. So it takes the most amount of effort as well. So kind of, you know, was putting up videos was kind of gaining traction, but not that great. And then I put up a video that's called beer bottle excavator Trek. And it's me stacking two beer bottles on top of each other and then putting a golf ball on top of the two beer bottles that are stacked up with our mini excavator. And that went viral, which was super cool. It was getting 500,000 views a day for the first two days. I think it's got somewhere around 2 million views right now. And that's really what put me on the map. You know, my local w m er news nine here in New Hampshire, came out and did a did a story on me. I was on the front page of like Yahoo News. I used Sam Adams beer bottles, Sam Adams reached out to me wanted me to read or wanted permission to repost the video on their website. So it just kind of like launched my social media career, I guess you'd call it. It led into I was actually cast for a TV show on the Discovery Channel that aired three pilot episodes, it was called machines of glory. It was a heavy equipment operating competition show. And I was on the show with two other actual social media guys. And we actually ended up winning our episode, which was super cool. So it's just led to a ton of experiences. I've traveled all over the world. Because of this. I've been to Sweden, because of it. I've been to Japan because of it. I've been all over the United States because of it. So it's just a super super, it's way more than I ever expected it to be. It's just led to so many opportunities. I've talked to so many awesome people from all over the world. So kind of technology with our business. You know, we've invested a lot in technology. And we have Trimble grade control systems in all of our machines. We use GPS, Trimble GPS to do all our layouts. We have what are called emcon, tilt rotators on our machines. Yeah. So just things that just make us much more efficient. I Well, edcon was not even in the us when we started looking at buying tilt rotators and so I was like, how am I gonna, you know, there's three major brands, how do I determine what one would be best for us? So I use my social media and I talked to people over in Europe. I mean, how would you have done that 1020 years ago, you have all that knowledge right at your fingertips and you can just direct message somebody, and I'm more than willing to bet they're gonna respond right back and give you their honest feedback. So it's just a super cool thing.
Eric Girouard 30:14
Wow. Wow. So okay, so you've got not only do you have multiple businesses and real estate in New Era and partnerships, but you're the you know, the dirt ninja is, is a, you could argue a business unto itself, right? And you use it to more open up doors, then to monetize it. But yeah, so in terms of technology, not only are you guys, you know, most business talk about technology of like, Alright, we're going to use modern technology, new equipment, but you're leveraging the latest and the greatest, which is, right, how do we take social media, which is, you know, as you've learned, you go viral, all of a sudden, you go into a different league, right, which is the hardest part, and it opens up doors that you could have never thought you were just a equipment operator with your head down in New Hampshire, not really posting anything, you'll probably still be very successful. But this is taking you into a almost a different kind of, I wouldn't say League, but it's opened up doors that would have never been opened up. Right? Absolutely. It's, um, we don't. So my content is not about me, it's about what I post is about the content. It's, you almost never see my face. And I do that on purpose. It's not,
Tom Gardocki 31:24
I don't care, you know, they, you know, everybody's like, oh, you're famous, I don't think of myself like that. I'm just a guy who digs holes, and I post videos and post pictures about it, that has a large following. I am all about quality content, informative content, and good content. Yeah. And not about myself. It's about what I'm doing what I'm explaining, you know, not many 32 year olds have been running equipment, since they were 420. You know, how many of them have 28 years of experience when you're 32 years old, probably not very many. So I enjoy sharing all the things that I've learned over the years, it just helps you build, the biggest thing with social media is credibility, it takes so long to build it, and it takes literally one post to lose it. So I am huge on that we use the main purpose of the social media now is making connections and helping promote and show off our business. Yeah, it's kind of like our, if you go on our website, new air excavation, calm, you'll find my social media is all over there, there's videos on there, it's like almost instant credibility to a customer, when they come and check us out, they can see a project start to finish in a time lapse video, you know, in four minutes, they can see a whole project start to finish, see what we do, you can watch all the videos, you can see how I explain things. You know, it shows that we know what we're doing. So that is our biggest, or my biggest use of the social medias to benefit the business to help us out to make those relationships with dealers with manufacturers of products. Other people just in our area, I can't even tell you how many just other companies in the area who are on social media have reached out to me and I, oh, you know, if you ever need a truck, you know, let me know for a day or you need a machine to rent or, you know, it's just it's all about networking. And the more you network, you know, the more successful you'll be. So it's just been a huge, huge asset or
Eric Girouard 33:31
No, and I can I can confirm it is not about you personally, because when mark our mutual friend Mark said had the dirt you know, I grew up with the dirt ninja. And he's like, I'll introduce you to Tom, it was impossible for me to even find your name Tom guard. I was like, I don't even know who the dirt ninja is. He's so buried in the internet. And so it was like, Wow, it is literally like it's not about him at all. It's about the platform and the business and what he's doing, which is, which is the right play, right? If it's about you and what you do and what you eat for breakfast and how you think about things. There's also there's a different avenue for that, but right
Tom Gardocki 34:10
yeah, I think too many people these days, this is just my opinion, want to be, you know, Insta famous, right? And it's all about them. You know, every picture they post on Instagram has their face in it, you know, stuff like that. And you don't really have any credibility. When you do that. You got to post good content, you know, real real stuff, you know, helpful things help other people out. Don't be afraid to give away your secrets. I get asked that all the time. Why? Why would you? You know, give away your secrets. You've been running equipment for 28 years. Why would you? You know, give that away? You're gonna help your competition. Well, I don't really care about that. I'm about helping out helping other people. And to be honest, we I think we're gonna do it better than the competition anyway, so I'm not really worried about that. Right?
Eric Girouard 34:56
Right, right. No, that's that's that's incredible. So now so, so Okay, so you've got a ton of stuff in the hopper, you got multiple businesses, family business, you've got your own, you know, your personal brand, even though you really use it as a company brand, which I think is the right play. Tell us what's the biggest thing that keeps you up right now, for the past few weeks? Obviously, we're dealing with COVID. You know, we're kind of getting to hopefully, there's some light at the end of the tunnel there. But from your business perspective, especially from a new era perspective, what are you losing sleep over? What is it, you know, new jobs, hiring more people, equipment, all that stuff, tell us what your biggest, you know, challenges that they are facing at the stage you're at.
Tom Gardocki 35:36
So we haven't really been affected by the COVID. Thankfully, I know there's a lot of people that have and it's, you know, obviously been terrible. But we haven't been affected, and we are probably busier than we have ever been in the history of the company. And we are very nervous about expanding. You know, we really don't want to purchase new equipment, even though we just did, but that was for a specific job. And the job pretty much paid for the machine, we don't really want to hire more people. Because both Craig and I are very, like, once we hire somebody, we want them to work for us forever, we want to treat them, right, we never want them to leave, we want to take care of them. They're the number one goal, we I will pay them over myself, if that's what it comes down to. That's how we kind of the philosophy of our business is. So our biggest challenge right now is we have so much work, we had a ton of rain in April. So we got very behind, we had a job, the hammering job went over by a half a month of our estimated time that we thought it was going to take so we're very behind. Obviously, we want to keep up with our current builders and keep them happy. So it's really like it's logistics, it's how do we move the machines around the most efficient way? What machine? Do we put where to do the job most efficiently? Who do we put at each job to do it most efficiently? So it's just it's a it's a good problem, I guess. But it is still a problem. So we're just trying to I hope, after this like next month and a half time we can kind of get caught up. But it is it's very stressful when you're getting calls from, you know, an awesome builder that has given you tons and tons of work in the past. And he goes, do you need to get here because I need you and you're at another job. So what do you do? So it's it's a, like I said, a good problem. But it's still a problem.
Eric Girouard 37:35
So it sounds like it boils down to you guys want to build a company that is is is not an enterprise that someday you have 10s of 1000s employees. And so because of that you guys want to keep keep it tight, keep it in control. When you bring someone on, you want them to be part of the new era family, hopefully forever, if that works out that way. And so the challenges is you guys do incredible work. customers love you. And there's more demand that you guys have supply for right now. But you also don't want to build, you know, if you if you met all that demand, you'd be building a much bigger company than what you guys really want, which I think is actually pretty impressive, because most people will chase demand, Oh, we got to learn, let's hire someone else. Let's hire someone else that's buy more equipment. And then that's where you kind of get upside down. Markets change or all sudden you guys wake up and you're like, we've got like 100 employees, we didn't we don't want to be in people management business. We want to be in doing great work business. And so you guys I think are pretty It sounds like you're pretty disciplined on knowing what you guys want that company to be. And what's stressing you out is you guys, there's too much demand for what you guys are delivering.
Tom Gardocki 38:45
Exactly, yeah, it's, you know, I want to run a machine for the rest of my life. I don't want to sit in an office and you know, manage 2040 100 guys, that's not what I want to do. I want to be out doing the work. That's what I love to do. And I think Craig feels the same way. So you know, we want to remain hands on and obviously when a business owner remains handoff hands on, usually the quality can stay up and that's what we're really big about. So yeah, it's it's kind of right now, you know, we have so much work and yes, we could go hire somebody right now. And we could put them to work and and be keep them busy. We could probably go buy another machine right now and keep it busy. But it's like keeping those things in check. And especially with this COVID thing too, because now there's some uncertainty. You know, we had a lot of the projects we had or we're doing now. We're booked last fall, you know, houses that were already in the planning stages. So it's like okay, let's see how the next year goes and kind of feel it out. We don't want to expand right now and buy more equipment and hire more guys. Then all of a sudden, our workload shrinks right down because the economy or something, you know, the COVID thing comes back, you know, We just we got to be very cautious, you know, the financial side of the business is so important. And I think a lot of people, especially in excavation, small companies kind of mess that up some of my very good friends, you know, did awesome work, but they didn't manage the business side, it's, in my opinion, the business side is slightly more important than the actual doing work side, because you can be the best site contractor do the best work. But if you're a horrible businessman, your business isn't going to work. If you're a great businessman, and you do terrible work, you can probably make it work. Yeah, right. But so that the financial side is just, you know, super important. And, and like I said, we want to, we want to keep guys around, I don't want to lay Pat off, if we slow down, like, I want to make sure we have, you know, money saved up that if we don't have work for a month, I can still pay him. And we can still pay ourselves, you know, I don't want to lay him off, that's not what we're about, it's you come to work for us, we're going to take care of you, we want you to work here for the rest of your life. So that's kind of our whole philosophy.
Eric Girouard 41:08
I love it, because you hit on the financial piece, which is you know, my thesis in life. And there's, there's a lot of pieces, one is, you know, put the pedal to the floor, lever everything up. But when economies crash or COVID comes, then you know, people lose their entire companies. I've been on the mindset similar, it sounds like you guys personally, and you guys are doing it from the business, which is live well below your means. You guys can easily go buy a bunch more machines from the biggest names, finance, some you got great credit, all that stuff, hire a bunch of people, but then you're, you're exposing yourself. And right now you might be missing out on some revenue and some more money. But you have control your destiny versus when you go the other route where you're levered up, and you're at the control of kind of the market. And if that market doesn't go, Well, your business goes sideways, fast, controlled expansion. Exactly. Yeah. very thoughtful, controlled expansion. Probably, you know, most people would critique it and saying, Wow, they could have grown that, you know, they could have doubled last year. And maybe you did 50% growth, but they're like, Well, listen, we we didn't have to lose sleep over like, are we gonna be able to pay people? Are we gonna be able to pay off those machines? And so you trade off hyper growth? For you running a good business, like a really profitable business that Yeah, maybe you left something on the table, but at the day, you're gonna still have your business and the other people who are riding riding more of the cowboy style, they might not have their business things go sideways.
Tom Gardocki 42:37
That's the goal. Anyways, we'll see how it plays out.
Eric Girouard 42:39
Yeah, no, I think you guys are on the right track. Okay, so this has been incredible. I mean, I feel like I've, you know, this is like, from everything you're doing right from, from the real estate stuff, to new era, to the dirt engine, how that those kind of all things work, which is incredible. This has been fascinating into a different side of the dirt engine. You know, I spent a bunch of time on your social media over the past few weeks and just seeing we went out to Colorado and built the dirt, bike ramps and all that stuff, which is like incredible, which, for any listeners out there to just go check out the Instagram account. There's just incredible work that so diverse outside of what we talked about tonight, but let's lighten things up a little bit. And so we'll take it off of work for a minute. So for Tom guard, Aki, or aka the dirt Ninja, you know, if you could spend a half an hour with anyone in the world? who would it be and why?
Tom Gardocki 43:29
100% I would want to sit down with Ilan musk. He is a he is a totally wacko. But I don't know, he just if you look at all the companies he started, he's a very forward thinking person, you know, kind of like the cutting edge. I mean, who makes it their goal to build a rocket company because they want to go land on Mars and who, you know, starts the largest solar company in the United States and who starts an electric car company, you know, only makes electric cars. So I just think he fascinates me. I read his book about him has just been absolutely fascinating. You know, now he's getting into dirt work. He has the boring company and he just drills holes in the ground. He's just a he's a very fascinating person to me. I'd love to sit down with him and just hear his philosophy of kind of like, forward thinking and thinking like, What is next? What does society need next? He's very interesting, Carson.
Eric Girouard 44:29
I love it. So it's funny. So I read that exact same book. Not only did it make me feel very small for what I'm trying to accomplish on a daily basis, but it made me like, Dude, this guy's trying to solve like massive problems not to mention he's doing like four at the same time. The boring company you know the solar panels and they kind of all tie together but it's funny it's now that you mentioned that it makes sense because I'm not trying to say Tom guard Aki are the ninjas Ilan Musk, but like you're doing four things or three or four things that they all Kind of feed into each other. And so it kind of makes sense why that's the type of guy you want to talk to you because even though they're completely unrelated, they actually all kind of feed into it, you're learning things from one side of the business that's helping others out of the business and vice versa. And so that's, uh, I love to hear that. And then the last question, so the biggest thing, so you're working, it sounds like you're working, you know, a couple days a week with the family business, then you're working a couple days. And it sounds like it's three in two, but I'm sure those change and those blend in that really seven. But when you're when you're able to take some time off the machine and you're able to take some time off the family business, you're you're able to unwind, what do you do and what what charges you up when you're able to, you know, outside of work and watching even other operators, YouTube, you know, and all that stuff. What do you like to do?
Tom Gardocki 45:46
I don't do much else to be honest with you, I'd kind of consumes my life. But when I do get free time, I love to spend it with my wife. She's my best friend. And you know, there's a lot of nights that I'm in the office till 10pm and she's already in bed, and we had dinner together and that was it. So any free time that I get I like to spend with her go. We love mini golfing, where she's ultra competitive. And so um, I love mini golf and her parents have a pool so we'll go hang out at the pool. My grandparents live up on Lake Winnipesaukee. So we'll go up there and hang out. So it's just, it's like getting away from it all is kind of what I enjoy in my free time.
Eric Girouard 46:30
Yeah, so it sounds like you're fully consumed with everything. And so it's unplugging spending time with her, and saying, alright, I'm not gonna think about machines, equipment or business. And we're gonna do our thing when, when we can't
Tom Gardocki 46:41
exactly yeah, and I also, I'm also a fifth degree blackbelt in kempo, karate, so I've actually been doing that for 27 years now. And it is a great way to blow off steam. So go in, and I'm really into the MMA stuff. I have never, never ever actually get into running and fight because I think you have to be a little bit crazy to do that. But I love going in and training on a Saturday and just blowing off some steam with a whole bunch of other guys that I get along with. Well, so yeah, there's a few different things that I do.
Eric Girouard 47:18
So that ties the internet. By the way, that was an unexpected tidbit that ties the dirt ninja completely together. Literally, you're in dirt 90% of time and you're a ninja the other percent of the time. Not many people know that story. But that is exactly why the name is the name that it is. got it got it. Awesome. So Tom, thank you so much for taking the time to, you know, talk to us here at bucket talk. You know, obviously, our mission is a little bit different, you know, yeah, obviously, everyone check out everything at New Era and dirt engine, what they've got going on, and we're just trying to kind of peek behind the scenes on, you know, what someone you know, a young guy, what it takes to kind of step into the arena of starting your own business. And I wouldn't say you've sailed into the sunset, but you're well on your way, at a really young age for from what you kind of learn from your family business, to starting your own businesses while you're in college to you know, in your early 30s, which, you know, you're basically 30 years into your career, which most people that's usually in like their 50s or 60s. So I think you're you're pretty well versed in how this all works. So no, thanks for taking the time. I know you've got a lot going on. So we really, really appreciate it and would love to stay in touch and then and then hopefully we'll connect after after all this kind of COVID passes we'll be we'll be coming up your way and in the neighborhood. So we'd love to meet in person. Yeah, thanks for having me. This was great. This is my my first podcast so it's kind of cool.
Tom Gardocki has been at the helm of some pretty heavy equipment since just 4 years old. His father, owner and operator of a now 45 year old hardscaping business, was quick to introduce his son to the trades. By 10, Tom already had the knowledge and experience to independently run the equipment on job sites.
“I scared a ton of customers. My dad would literally..we would go into a new front lawn, and he would get all the equipment ready and he would leave..we had to put a 50 lb bag of seed behind me so I could reach the petals”
Spending countless summers working alongside the company foreman, Tom not only picked up a wealth of knowledge, but a deep love for running equipment. Hardscaping, however, was no easy feat. It’s laborious nature had taken a toll on his father over the years and Tom knew early on, long term, he did not want to carry the torch. Instead, he set his sites on Excavation which was able to combine his landscaping knowledge with his love for heavy machinery.
“I grew up in the family business so I knew hardscaping was hard work...I’d rather let the machines do the work”
Fast forward to 2010. Eager to show off his equipment skills, Tom created a YouTube account under the pseudonym “Dirt Ninja”. Not expecting much, he uploaded video after video all while learning the basics of the channel. It wasn’t until he posted a video of him stacking glass bottles with an excavator did things take a wild turn. The video was gaining 500,000 views a day and reached a level of virality some content creators can only dream of.
Now at 32, Tom’s is the co-owner of New Era Excavation out of Londonderry, NH and has a hand in a multitude of other businesses (including his parents), and While “Dirt Ninja”channel has garnered a global following opening up doors he could have never imagined, Tom’s purpose behind the platform runs deeper than just creating a cool video.
“My content is not just about me..it’s about what I’m doing. Not many 32 year olds have been running equipment since they were four..the main purpose of social media is making connections and helping promote and show off our business..”
From his early days in hardscaping to his current role as serial entrepreneur and social media guru, we've been blown by Tom's story. Be sure to listen as we dig into how the “Dirt Ninja'' came to be and what’s next for Tom Gardocki.